Alcohol, Drug Use and TASC Program

Alcohol, Drug Use and TASC Program

Children are at an increased risk for abuse or neglect as well as physical, academic, social and emotional problems when parents abuse illicit or prescription drugs and alcohol. Substance abuse can lead to chaotic and unpredictable home environments. Regardless of whether a parent has primary or joint parenting time with their child, using drugs or alcohol may lead to possible maltreatment, abuse, neglect or hinder the lives of the child. For these reasons, when awarding parenting time or legal decision-making authority, the Family Court strives to ensure that the best interests of the child are being met.

Abusing drugs and alcohol, or being convicted of any drug offense may prevent a party from obtaining unsupervised parenting time or legal decision-making authority. A.R.S §25-403.04 governs this issue. Within twelve months before the petition or the request for legal decision-making or parenting time is filed, if the court determines that a parent has abused drugs or alcohol or has been convicted of a drug offense there is a rebuttable presumption that sole or joint legal decision-making by the offending parent is not in the child’s best interests. The best interests of the child weigh heavily on the court’s decision for determining parenting time or decision-making.

To conclude whether a party has rebutted the presumption, the court will consider a minimum of three factors:

  1. the absence of any conviction of any other drug offense during previous five years
  2. results of random drug testing for a six month period,
  3. results of alcohol or drug screening provided by a facility approved by the department of health services.

The court will designate the frequency of testing and appoint responsibility. Generally, the appointment of a Parenting Coordinator is provided, as afforded by Rule 74 of the Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure.  The Court may also refer the abusing or offending parent to the Treatment Assessment Screening Center (TASC) Diversion Program to be assessed for drugs or alcohol.

TASC may provide hair follicle or urine tests to assess a parent. Most often, the accused party is responsible for paying for the fees associated with the testing. It may cost anywhere between $100 and $2000 depending upon the test method selected and frequency of the random tests. TASC has several screening panels. Screen “A” tests for a full spectrum of 9 different drugs. It consists of Alcohol, Amphetamines, Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Cocaine, Opiates, PCP, Propoxyphene and THC. Screen “B” tests for the most commonly abused street drugs, which consist of Amphetamines, Cocaine, Opiates, PCP and THC. Prescription drugs are also tested for abuse in Screen “C”. These drugs include Barbiturates, Benzodiazepines, Opiates and Propoxyphene. However, single drug abuse may be tested if there is an accusation of one particular drug including the drugs previously mentioned, ecstasy, spice and bath salts.

Another tool is used within the Family Courts to assess whether a parent is abusing alcohol or to discredit a false claim of alcohol abuse. This is called Secured Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring or SCRAM bracelet. This is an ankle bracelet that continuously monitors the use of alcohol transdermally, or on the skin. It is worn 24/7, weighs approximately 8 ounces and is strapped around the ankle. There is a modem with the device that plugs into any telephone LAN line. The bracelet detects how much alcohol is consumed and when about every half-hour. SCRAM bracelet tests ethanol vapor emanating from the skin’s surface. The amount of ethanol on the skin is converted into blood alcohol content called transdermal alcohol content (TAC) which is downloaded remotely. Reports from the device are recorded and used to determine if there is a violation of alcohol use or abuse. This method is also costly, at about $75 for the sitting fee and $360 per month.

The results of these assessments may lead to a referral to a parent awareness class, child custody and divorce substance abuse evaluation, future random testing by TASC or the removal or reinstatement of parental rights such as parenting time or legal decision making.

These issues regarding alcohol, drug use and the TASC Program are very difficult to explain in this section alone. This is not to be a substitute for legal advice. It is imperative to contact an experienced Family Law Attorney at Best Law Firm to help explain and assess your particular situation.

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